Updated: July 24, 2021 10:28 PM
Created: July 24, 2021 10:27 PM
Mill Ruins Park in Minneapolis was turned into a great gathering place Saturday with the return of the Aquatennial fireworks on the Mississippi River.
The annual summer celebration had to go virtual in 2020 — the fireworks canceled — because of pandemic concerns.
“This is the third year, not including last year, the COVID year,” Woodbury resident Eric Yang said.
Yang’s extended family of about 20 people gathered in the park early Saturday afternoon for a prime spot to view the fireworks. They were clearly enjoying the in-person event, which before the pandemic, was typically attended by 250,000 people, organizers say.
“It's great to be able to see people, to shake your hand like we did earlier, to walk around, not have a mask on — it's great,” Yang said.
Blankets, tents and chairs dotted the grassy areas of the park, especially right across the river from the Stone Arch Bridge, where the fireworks were set off. The usual launching point for those pyrotechnics, the Third Avenue bridge, was unavailable because of construction.
Some families arrived at noon or earlier to stake their claim for a prime viewing spot — a far different story from last year.
“It's been so great to bring people downtown, collectively enjoying the summer like we always do. [It's] just so fun to have people back,” said Mark Remme with the Minneapolis Downtown Council.
There were some safety measures in place: hand sanitizer stations were set up, and the kids zone, a popular family gathering place, was not set up, because of concerns for children who haven’t been able to get COVID-19 vaccinations.
Nearby, Valerie Ballanger and her family from Columbia Heights arrived early, finding a front-row seat overlooking the river.
She said she didn’t mind waiting ten hours to see the fireworks.
“We usually come at noon so we can get our spots because otherwise everything is filled up,” Ballanger explained.
And the fireworks?
“They’re actually wonderful,” Ballanger smiled. “The best ones I’ve seen ever since I’ve come here.
Meanwhile, a fireworks crew from Pittsburgh spent the afternoon, making last-minute preparations.
Zambelli Fireworks can control the pyrotechnics through a high-tech command center in a suitcase.
“There's a lot of firepower here,” says Zach Taminosian, a Zambelli spokesperson. “We have over 2,500 firing cues, which means the actual electrical connections that happen in the firing system. For each one of these cues, there's sometimes three to 25, 50 or more shots that occur.”
In other words, tens of thousands of rockets, Taminosian says.
Sitting patiently on their blanket, Yang family members say they don’t mind the wait.
They say they’ve been waiting two years for this event.
“It doesn't get long as it's enjoying each other and coming out and having fun with each other,” Eric Yang says.
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